Man screaming in pain


Feelings are disturbing. People are taught that pain is evil and dangerous. How can they deal with love if they’re afraid to feel?

~Jim Morrison

Behind every beautiful thing, there’s some kind of pain.

~Bob Dylan

Pain hurts.

No one wants pain in their lives, but we all have it. If we didn’t have pain, we probably wouldn’t have much joy. Creating happiness in our lives involves taking risks—including the risk of pain. Ultimately, if we can find a balance between pain and joy, we have had a life worth living.

There are different kinds of pain, and it can come from different sources. There is physical pain, the pain of unfulfilled desire, the pain of loss, the pain of regret. Some might say that these are different kinds of pain—in how they feel and in how they manifest—but to me, they are very similar. Intense emotional pain hurts just as deeply as any physical pain we might endure.

Time can ease our pain, but as Neil Peart says,

“Time does not heal all wounds, but only allows us to adapt, if we can, to a life that is forever altered. Some wounds are like physical disabilities that will never heal, but can only be compensated for, adapted to.”

What we do with the time when we’re in pain matters. We have to come to terms with our pain and try to understand it. And, although it doesn’t necessarily lessen it or make it go away, this process can help us to cope with it.

This might involve considering the events and experiences that have caused our pain and figuring out how they affect us. Through this clarity, the emotional turmoil will be better understood and (hopefully) somewhat lessened.

In addition to understanding what has caused our pain, it can also be helpful to better understand the nature of the pain itself. How exactly does it hurt? Where in my psyche or in my body do these feelings manifest? How are they affecting my outlook? My actions? Through these steps, we can come to know, and deal with, our pain, and ultimately, these questions can help us avoid being blindsided by these feelings.

When pain isn’t able to dominate anymore, we can make room for other feelings (happiness) to come into our lives and eventually thrive. The pain doesn’t go away, but there can be room for other feelings. There will always be times in our lives when pain dominates, but the more we understand our relationship with pain, the less of an impact it will have.

Pain is complicated. It can stem from other emotions and lead to other emotions, and this combo platter can be a difficult puzzle to solve. Pain can be integrated with other negative emotions that impede our ability to deal with our pain. But, like anything, the more we practice, the better we will be at working through these feelings.

Sometimes strong pain can stick with us for a long time. It wears us down and exhausts us. It saps our energy and darkens our mood.

It’s not pleasant and it’s a very natural thing to try to “get over” or deny it. But this doesn’t make it go away—it will likely make it stay longer. For example, some people who are depressed may feel that there is a stigma associated with this condition or that it is indicative of some kind of weakness. This kind of thinking will not only be a detriment to their healing, it will propagate the idea that mental illness and its symptoms are somehow not as legitimate as other kinds of pain.

Denying our pain is like painting over rust. The rust is still there, and it will show itself again soon.

It’s a much better thing to scrape away the rust before we paint. Sometimes it can be hard to get all of it, and the rust may have damaged the metal, but in the end, the paint will last longer and the rust won’t come back as easily.

It takes courage and strength to deal with pain. But does it take more to endure pain, or to address pain? The more we can find the courage and strength to deal with our pain, the less we will need to endure it.

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